That Monkey Is Looking At Us

Going ashore on our first full day in Costa Rica with UnCruise Adventures! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It becomes pretty apparent that this is no ordinary cruise when you are walking through the jungle and you catch a monkey staring at you from high atop the trees. When that monkey is joined by four other monkeys, all hopping from branch to branch until they’re so close you could touch them, you know you’re sailing on UnCruise Adventures.

It’s Day 2 of our Uncharted Isthmus! Sloths, Monkeys and Mangroves itinerary that will whisk us through Costa Rica and Panama aboard the 62-guest Safari Voyager. This is a brand-new itinerary for UnCruise; so new that this is officially Voyage Number Two.

We Are Here. Each day, a large map positioned all the way forward on Deck 2 is updated with our current location. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After sailing through the night along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, we arrived at our first port of call: Manuel Antonio National Park, located just south of the city of Quepos. Larger cruise ships have to dock at Quepos Port, but the Safari Voyager is small enough that we’ve tucked into the bay in the park, right off the main beach.

Breakfast was served at 7:30 am this morning, but many guests chose to get up just after 5:00 am to watch the sun rise and to participate in yoga up on-deck at 6:15. Yoga classes are complimentary, and there’s certainly no pressure to join; guests are free to do as they wish.

Up early for breakfast to watch…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…as skiff operations begin! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Another new addition to the Safari Voyager: synthetic, “wood-like” railings that will hold up well under the harsh humidity of Costa Rica. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Because she’s such a small ship, the call for breakfast generally means you have to do and dine at that time. Unlike big ships, where you can wander in well past the start of breakfast, scheduling on the Safari Voyager really does depend on everyone dining at the same time.

Breakfast was a buffet affair consisting of quiche, bacon, fresh fruit and pastries. It was flavourful and filling; exactly what was needed before a morning of adventures ashore.

Did you forget your bug spray and sunscreen at home? UnCruise has you covered – literally. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Guests today could participate in three touring options in Manuel Antonio National Park: a gentle walk in search of the elusive sloth; a more adventurous hike around the park’s three-kilometre Cathedral Trail; or an active hike with many inclines and steps.

I signed up for the second hike, which went ashore at 9:10 am.

Also new: Safari Voyager’s new EZ Launch platform is suited for launching both the motorized skiffs and the kayaks. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Safari Voyager at anchor in Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Coming ashore with the rising sun. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In many ways, UnCruise reflects the laid-back way of life in Costa Rica. Rooms have no keys or keycards; instead, they’re kept unlocked all day, but can be locked from the inside. On other ships this would be a problem; on UnCruise, it’s just the way things are done – and the line has never had an issue.

Going ashore on excursions is likewise easy. A magnetic board at the stern of the ship has every cabin listed. Next to the cabin number is a small magnet, with two positions: “Aboard” or “Ashore.” When going ashore, just slide the magnet over to “Ashore”, and move it to “Aboard” when you return.

Ashore, we discarded our lifejackets and headed into Manuel Antonio National Park, led by our Costa Rican guide, Chris.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Expedition Guide, Chris, leads us on a journey along…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the lush “Cathedral Trail.” Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Located in the heart of Puntarenas province, the Park is home to 109 different species of mammals and over 330 species of birds, not to mention the abundant plant and marine life. And you learn very quickly that much of the plant life is out to get you: right on the beach is a tree so poisonous that if you drape your clothing over it, or touch it in any way, it will cause your skin to itch and burn tremendously.

My personal favorite is the tree that has spikey needles growing up its trunk. These are Serious Needles; they look like they’d go clean through you if you stuck yourself with one.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Watch where you put your hands! These spikes cover the trunks of dozens of trees along the pathway, though park workers have removed most of the ones tourists might be liable to reach. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

And so we set off into the jungle. The jungle and I have a love-hate relationship in that I love it, and it wants to kill me through heat, bugs, animals, or otherwise. But this jungle was different: cooled by the ocean breeze that sifted through the abundant palm trees, it felt better inside the forest than out in the sun on the beach.

The trail we took was a circular loop, meaning not only can you not get lost, but you also don’t have to retrace your steps to get back to where you started. Having said that, the trail is marked, roped off, and signs are placed strategically warning you to stay on the path. Unlike in Alaska, where UnCruise offers adventuresome “bushwhacks” that go completely off into the unknown, the company sticks to the trails here for good reason.

Can you see the white-faced capuchin monkey? Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Here he comes! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

These are among the most intelligent monkeys in Costa Rica. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It wasn’t long before we saw the white-throated (or faced, depending on your guidebook) capuchin monkeys. A cute little thing with a white face, it hopped through the trees before dropping down on the wooden railing of our viewing platform. It wasn’t long before he was joined by four of his friends, though they hung back on the trail. I don’t think they knew what to make of us.

That he was joined by his friends isn’t that unusual; the white-throated capuchin typically travels in groups of up to 30. They’re omnivorous, but typically eat fruit and insects. As we had neither fruit nor insects to offer, cebus capucinus decided he’d had enough of us and leapt back into the trees to try his luck elsewhere.

Our hike took us through the lush, dense forest in Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Cathedral Trail is an easy, intermediate hike that shouldn’t be an issue for most travellers. There are, however, numerous stairs to negotiate. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Every step of the way, there were fantastic opportunities…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for photos. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

See these caterpillars? Don’t touch them. They’re poisonous – like nearly everything in the jungle! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

During the course of our 90-minute long hike, we saw wild butterflies, raccoons, monkeys, and even some creature that Chris described as a “rodent” but which looked more like a small dog to me. We also saw some black caterpillars crawling along one of the wooden railings on the path. You guessed it: they’re poisonous, too.

After our hike, guests were given time on the beach to enjoy the surf before heading back to the Safari Voyager for lunch. After a tasty buffet lunch, guests who wanted to go ashore for an afternoon on the beach could do so until 3:30, when the last zodiac returned to the ship.

Before long, we were headed back to the Safari Voyager…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for lunch and cocktail hour! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

At 5:30 pm, it was time for Cocktail Hour in the Lounge, where bartenders Danny and Taylor served up libations aplenty while Expedition Leader Sarah filled us in on our options for tomorrow’s adventures ashore.

And what a day it is – one filled with opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking in Costa Rica’s pristine beauty. The joke on all UnCruise Adventures voyages is that the only hardship is deciding what to do the next day. It’s appropriate: I had a tough time choosing but ultimately picked kayaking in the morning and a gentle stroll to round out the afternoon.

Bartender Danny serves up a selection of hand-crafted cocktails…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…in the Lounge each afternoon and evening. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

You can also get something off-menu, like my favourite, Dark and Stormy. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Cocktail Hour and our Daily Briefing, rolled into one! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

One decision that was easy: stepping out of the lounge mid-lecture. I hated to do it, because Sarah and Expedition Team members Chris, Rey, Jenny, and the rest are stellar folks. But the sunset outside was beyond gorgeous, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch as the last embers of light on Sunday, January 15, 2017 flickered out against the hull of the Safari Voyager as the sun passed over the horizon.

Goodnight…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…from the Safari Voyager! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report aboard UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager continues tomorrow as we explore the Curu National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Safari Voyager - Costa Rica & Panama

Day 1Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica & Embarkation in Puerto Caldera
Day 2Manuel Antonio National Park, CR
Day 3Curu National Park, CR
Day 4Oso Peninsula, CR
Day 5Golfo Dulce & Golfito, CR
Day 6Isla de Coiba, Panama
Day 7Transiting the Panama Canal
Day 8Disembarkation, post-cruise Panama City stay and recap.

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